When coaching combination play - most people jump straight to the good old 'give and go' or the overlap. Some may even stretch to double passes or dummies, but how many of you automatically think of the takeover? Useful in a very specific scenario, is the takeover often overlooked or is it such a rare occurrence that it doesn't warrant spending an entire session on...
Why the Takeover
On paper, the takeover is a fairly simple combination, in that it requires minimal skill to perform other than dribbling the ball in a straight line. However, there are various nuances to the combination that can make it more effective than others. Take the diagram below for example:
In this activity, the attacking players combine with a takeover in order to penetrate the space in behind the defender. The first attacker (the one receiving the ball) is under pressure from the defender and is unable to turn and penetrate in behind and therefore takes his touch inside. This is the cue for the second attacker to underlap the first attacker, either to perform the takeover or to create space for the first attacker who is heading in his direction.
Decision time comes when the first attacker and second attacker cross paths. Do they perform the takeover, does the first attacker fake to leave it and take it himself or does he take an extra touch as if to continue but then perform a backheel into the path of the second attacker?
The decision above is then affected by any number of factors: how fast is the first attacker dribbling, how tight is the pressure, did the second attacker read the cue of the touch inside and make the run in time? When performed correctly, the takeover can take the defender out of the game in one quick movement as his momentum is the key to the move. If he slows down, a fake and acceleration should do the trick to penetrate the space left behind by the second attacker. If he goes all out to stay with the first attacker, the takeover will eliminate him as his momentum takes him in the opposite direction.
In order to get to the decision phase of the takeover, the first attacker must have possession of the ball. Therefore, the way in which the first attacker receives the ball and protects it is vital. First and foremost, receiving with the foot furthest from the defender allows the first attacker to get his body in between the ball and defender in order to protect the ball. Secondly, he should continue to dribble with that foot, which co-incidentally is closest to the second attacker as he comes past. Which leads us to the next detail..
As the first attacker and second attacker combine there should be some kind of move or body movement in order to deceive the defender. This can work either way round, either faking to take it alone and leaving it for the second attacker or the second attacker making it as realistic as possible that he's the one taking it before the first attacker proceeds himself (I'm a fan of the second attacker calling for it and making it seem as though that ball is his as he comes past).
The Speed of the Combination
Lastly, none of this is of any consequence unless the move is done at pace. If the first and second attackers go slowly, this gives the defender more time to think, process and react to the combination and a better chance of defending against it. Everything about the move must be done at pace and the resulting combination must include some form of acceleration in order to beat the defender and break away into space.
Breakdowns in Communication
That might come across as a lot of information for a simple combination, but the truth is, the execution has to be very good in order for this move to have much success. There are a number of ways that this can break down, some of which I've touched on already (the pace at which it is performed). Communication is one of the biggest boundaries when trying to teach this combination to young players as it's hard to know who is going to take the ball as they cross. (It's not particularly easy to communicate when the defender is stood there listening in).
The most common versions of this breakdown in communication that I've seen are as follows:
1. Both the first and second attacker leave the ball for each other and the defender steps in and says 'thank you very much'.
2. Both the first and second attacker think that they are taking the ball on, tackle each other and then the defender steps in and says 'thank you very much'
One of the biggest complaints I've heard about the takeover is that you rarely see it manifest itself in a game. How many times have you watched the Premier League recently and seen two forwards combine with a takeover resulting in a chance or *gasp*, a goal?! On the other hand, another coach's opinion is that it's so rarely taught as a combination that how can we expect to see it if it hasn't been coached. If we're not going to coach it, who is?
While I don't want to spiral off into that debate too much (I'll leave that for a coaching course or a coaching curriculum debate), I think the merits of the takeover should be mentioned. While the takeover itself may not be all that common, the fact that it encourages movement off the ball of the second attacker and the concept of creating space, means that this session is worthwhile for that fact alone. Also factor in that the defenders must also start making decisions and you're onto a winner. Do we follow our runners, what happens if they perform the takeover, how do we have pressure/cover in case we get beaten?
When coaching the takeover, there is a specific cue for the movement (the touch inside), the options available to the player are very clear (takeover, go alone, backheel) and the element of creating space/moving off the ball is always one that should be encouraged in young players. It also gives them a reference of when, where and why to move off the ball rather than age old favourite's of "stop bunching" or "find space" being bellowed from the sidelines. If nothing else, it creates decision making opportunities for players - which are always coachable moments!
Whatever your stance on the takeover itself - consider those elements and you'll be surprised what you can get out of that session.